Prison farm abattoir lease will be up at end of September

Twice over the past three years regular staff and inmates have been busted for illegal activities

Ontario Farmer [click to view original article], Tue Sept 14 2021, Ian Cumming

On the last day of September the lease runs out for the Joyceville prison abattoir. It is owned by Corrections Services Canada (CSC) and has been leased for 26 years to a private company, Wallace Beef.

From 1963 to 1995 the abattoir was operated by prison staff who killed the beef and pork that was consumed by prisoners in several institutions. Since then there has been a continually renewed contract with Wallace Beef.

Prison beef and pork is now purchased from regular venues.

Internal emails obtained under Access to Information reveal a hunger strike initiated by some Muslim prisoners was one reason cited for that switch after some inmates working in the slaughter facility had reportedly taunted Muslims that they hadn’t followed halal protocols when slaughtering that specific beef labeled as such for them.

The abattoir relationship still continued after 2014, with the meat being sold off-site, after other prison abattoirs and the ongoing prison dairy farm was shut down in Kingston by the federal government.

A subsequent government has revived the farms, investing millions to date in field cropping, with still no promised dairy and goat barn construction and subsequent production taking place.

As of early September, there has been no public statement made by CSC, any local politicians during the election campaign, or even by the Save our Prison Farms organization regarding the abattoir’s pending situation.

On Aug. 31, a report on the Joyceville Institution Abattoir was presented to CSC by two abattoir opponents: Calvin Neufeld, from Evolve Our Prison Farms, and Kevin Belanger, the former Inmate Committee Chair for five years at both the Joyceville Minimum and Medium Units.

The report has six chapters, with the evidence presented from internal CSC documents obtained through Access to Information requests, and with most of the information in this report being made public for the first time.

Internal CSC emails reveal the abattoir was shut down for a month when two police forces were called in to investigate “money laundering and drug related activity.” OMAFRA was also called in at the same time to investigate improper slaughtering and meat handling.

One CSC email stated, “given the inmates we’ve had down there, I’d say not much consideration of crime.”

Belanger states in the report how prisoners were making $3 an hour slaughtering “but they can make $500 a day bringing in bales of tobacco.”

Twice over the past three years regular staff and inmates have been busted. “The Wallace Beef staff were escorted off the property, never to return again, and the inmates are sent to a higher security immediately by CSC,” stated the report.

Allowing prisoners imprisoned due to knife offences to be cleared for slaughter work resulted after an internal email from high up in CSC took issue with the ongoing psychological assessment.

“This delay is effecting their (Wallace Meats) ability to advance and meet financial targets,” it stated.

A June 1, 2016 email written some years later stated, “I just found out that psychology has not screened inmates in years,” to work in this slaughter facility.

The official reason cited as why that was discontinued was “due to liability concerns.”

Dozens of internal CSC emails, some heavily redacted, had many officials highlighting their distrust and ongoing frustrations with the slaughter facility.

The small number of actual inmates working there was also an issue with CSC staff. It was documented that many inmates wanted to quit after only a day or two working there, while the ones that lasted for a long time were probably involved in other profitable activities enhanced by being at the slaughter facility.

“Why are we subsidizing a private company when they aren’t employing inmates?” asked a CSC email.